There’s a lot to respect about Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski – three NCAA championships, 10 Final Four appearances and an Olympic gold medal among the highlights.
But when it comes to political statements, I can’t say I wholeheartedly agree with him. Take, for example, what he recently told the Associated Press about the president’s NCAA selections:
“Somebody said that we’re not in President Obama’s Final Four, and as much as I respect what he’s doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets.”
Granted, Coach K’s response could have been meant as a cute zing, aimed at gaining laughs more than pointing fingers. But given the coach’s track record (he’s been an outspoken Republican during his career and even got in trouble in 2002 for hosting an on-campus fundraiser for senate candidate Elizabeth Dole), I’d wager he was going for more than just a joke.
Coach K, though, is the least of President Obama’s worries; he’s just one of a number of conservative voices that have been lambasting Obama lately, criticizing him heavily for his apparent embrace of his celebrity status. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s some validity to these claims. Obama is a superstar, and he’s certainly being treated like one. In the last week alone, I saw him on my television screen more than Ryan Seacrest and the Jonas Brothers combined (certainly not a bad thing).
First, Obama popped up on my TV early last week as he broke down his selections for the NCAA; the next two days, I saw him giving town hall Q&A sessions throughout California; on Thursday night, he became the first sitting president to appear on a late-night talk show when he sat down on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno; and on Sunday, he appeared in an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes, as he discussed how his life has changed since moving into the White House.
Coach K, among countless political pundits and conservative bloggers, has criticized Obama’s recent enjoyment of the media spotlight, saying he should focus on his actual job and cut out the TV appearances, the NCAA discussions, and the petty back-and-forth at his town hall meetings.
But these critics have missed the point, and perhaps even fail to realize what makes President Obama such an outstanding and dynamic leader.
Let’s face it: Obama has a tough product to sell. Critics have cried “socialism” regarding his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which aims to invest hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy, while others have denounced his call to tax 90 percent of bonuses in response to the AIG controversy.
It’s been hard for Obama and his team to pass the type of legislation it would like to, as Republicans in the house and senate have been less than accommodating. Things reached a boiling point in late January when conservative mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh admitted on air that he “hopes Obama fails.”
That type of attitude is precisely what makes it necessary for Obama to continue to sell his product to the American public. His overwhelming charm, cool demeanor, and hilarious impromptu comments exude a type of confidence that the American public needs to see during these rough times.
And it’d be foolish to say that Obama is somehow “not doing his job” just because he’s taking 10 minutes out of his day to explain his NCAA selections to a few reporters. I’m sure he has a handle on the various aspects that go into running the country.
By keeping his face in the nation’s eye, creating a relatable and likeable public image, and going on television and town hall meetings to promote his policies and instill confidence in an unsure America, President Obama is going above and beyond to lead this country through difficult times.
There’s certainly no reason for him to stay locked up in the oval office for weeks at a time, and he definitely wouldn’t be winning any popular support of his policies by doing so.
When all is said and done, I doubt Obama could lead a men’s basketball team to a Final Four, and I’m more than skeptical over whether Coach K could lead the free world. But when it comes down to both men weighing in on each other’s area of expertise, I’d say Obama beats out the Olympic gold medal winner any day.